Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Packaging the conservative message (part II)

In 2000, George W Bush ran for president as a "Compassionate Conservative." It was an attempt to break from the image of traditional conservatives as cold and uncaring - even downright mean and make a dent in the advantage modern day liberalism had (and still has) in perceived compassion. It worked (in terms of getting him elected) because in spite of media attempts to paint him as a buffoon, people could tell that he loved his country and had genuine concern for people.

The first problem with the new brand is that it paints traditional conservatives as "cold and uncaring - even downright mean." Policy (liberal or conservative) is dispassionate. Well meaning individuals can hold to either policy. Decisions about which policy to follow should be based on their merits, not the personality of the person proposing them.

The next problem is that once elected, compassionate conservatism looked alot like diet liberalism in practice (at least fiscally). While President Bush made great headway in the area of tax cuts - which did provide a boon for the economy - his drastic spending increases (even discounting for the defense budget) erased a budget surplus in front of the nations eyes.

Now, on the whole, I believe President Bush to have been an excellent president (hows that for an unpopular position). He has shown himself a principled conservative on social issues, but he and the congressional Republicans have done the conservative platform no favors when they abandoned the principles of limited government.

The way I see it, Republicans in general and conservatives in particular, have two tasks at hand:

1) Educate the public as to why conservative principles make sound public policy and
2) Convince the electorate that they are going to be the party of limited government again.

The big question is can it be done? If so, how should we start?


  1. I believe that there is an ignorance of basic political theory, history, and economics, among the American populace today. I do not profess to be an expert on any of these topics but since I have a social studies degree and I teach the stuff everyday, I do think that I have a little more than a basic understanding.
    This ignorance (willing or otherwise)of basic principles is what drives the American people closer to socialism and Marxism, and allows them to ignore basic moral lessons from history. If people do not learn by example, they will learn by experience.
    As conservatives/Republicans/Christians, we need to be ready when people have learned world principles the hard way and are looking for answers to questions both political, philosophical, and spiritual. Basically it comes down to the issue of changing one's worldview.

  2. As for the Republican party itself, I think it should return to more of a grassroots approach, where individual conservatives act out their beliefs and spread them around. I think people will be more willing to listen in a few years. One thing we must NOT do is forsake our commitments to moral issues and limited government. (As I saw a talking head on MSNBC suggest yesterday) Otherwise, we would not be conservatives.

  3. John,

    I have to question you there, pal. How can you consider massive increases in spending, a massive undercutting of American freedoms ( i.e. The 'Patriot' Act, Telecom Immunity), and preemptive war- with its huge financial toll-and then say Bush was an 'excellent' president? It just doesn't fit with any of the conservative principles you want to cultivate in among the public. You did say that you felt he did a disservice with the growth of government, but in light of other decisions he has made against freedom, that concerns me ( I can't believe I'm about to say this) less.

  4. Anon:

    I already made the huge caveat on domestic spending (not to mention signing the abysmal First Amendment violation that is "Campaign Finance Reform")

    However, we have experienced no terrorist attacks since 9/11, he has appointed judges who respect the actual words of the US Constitution and held the line on protecting the rights of unborn children.

    Obviously, we differ in our opinion of the war in Iraq. I will grant you that our intelligence was off on WMD, however this was only one of several reasons listed for the invasion.

    While we did get bogged down for a while, the President wisely change strategies. The new strategy was so succesful that by the end of this passed election, the war was just about a non-issue. The debates barely touched on it, all the ads were economy related. Nobody was even talking about the war anymore.

  5. Bush's long-term legacy will be a period of unforeseen safety in the wake of 9/11, good appointments to the Court, a war that started badly and finished well, and unbridled spending. I'll give him a C.

    As far as packaging a conservative message, I'm afraid that is the hard part. You can package a message anyway you want, but it has to be delivered... And the gatekeepers of most delivery methods will continue to filter it any way they deem necessary to relegate our message to the right fringe.

    Take Sarah Palin... The average voter knows this about Sarah Palin: She was parodied mercilessly on SNL, she supposedly doesn't know that Africa is a continent, and she likes to hunt. No packaging methods of any kind would have changed this.

    The media is powerful and they don't like our product.

  6. How can you legitimately say that there have been no terrorist attacks on the US since 9/11 BECAUSE Bush invaded Iraq ( a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 anyway). That's a bit like saying there have been no comet-related deaths since the Hubble telescope.

    Also, something doesn't become a non-issue because farcical debates and campaign ads don't mention it. Success cannot be attributed to the War in Iraq just because professional message crafters chose not to bring it up.

  7. "How can you legitimately say that there have been no terrorist attacks on the US since 9/11 BECAUSE Bush invaded Iraq ( a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 anyway). That's a bit like saying there have been no comet-related deaths since the Hubble telescope."

    Call me slow, but I would think that if you're too busy hiding from bombs, missiles, and American troops, it would be awfully hard to plan a terror attack. Maybe I'm wrong.(but maybe not!)

    btw, I can't find anyplace in the above conversation where it says There were no terrorist attacks because of the Iraq war. I think that was ascribed to Bush himself.

  8. Anon said: "something doesn't become a non-issue because farcical debates and campaign ads don't mention it. Success cannot be attributed to the War in Iraq just because professional message crafters chose not to bring it up."

    You have it backwards. I pointed to the lack of war coverage as the RESULT of success in Irag, not the cause.

    Two years ago, the Democrats pounded GOP candidates mercilessly over the war on Irag. It was almost single handidly responsible for the Democrat gains in 2006.

    You can't seriously think that if the war were still going badly for us, given how tight the race was, that the Obama campaign would not have been hammering McCain at every turn on the issue?

    The media was brutal toward McCain. You cannot seriously argue that they were silent on an issue that would have buried him? If we were still losing in Iraq, McCain would have been lucky to crack 30% of the popular vote.

  9. I wouldn't call you slow, Bob.

    John and Dave both referenced the fact that no terror attacks have happened since 9/11-maybe it was ascribed to Bush, but how has he supposedly prevented more attacks? By "fighting them there, so we don't have to here."

    Maybe you're not wrong Bob, but maybe you are. It seems like that logic could be extended to the point where the US is spending even more billions and trillions of dollars to occupy and bomb any place that might harbor someone who doesn't like us. Doesn't action of that sort create even more willing aggressors?

  10. President Reagan would always say that the people need to be educated. I was only a kid during President Reagan's two terms. The knowledge that I have of President Reagan is limited to that which I have read and heard about from people who understood politics duing those years. However, the one thing that I do remember vividly about President Reagan is that it seemed like he was always on TV addressing the public.

    Because President Reagan was always on TV "educating the people", he was able to effectivly packege the concervative message. He was able to overcome the biases of the media because he constantly went directly to the American people and he earned their trust.

    Rush Limbaugh has said on numerous occasions, "Ignorance in the most expensive commodity we pay for." The media does not like our product because it informs the public and when the public is informed, they become irrelevant. The leftist prey on the ingorance of the people. As long as the people are ignorant, they can run on the emotions of the people rather than reality.

    The liberals package their message as "careing" and they package the conservative message as "cruel". They also have the media on their side. Unless a person does his own research or listens to conservative talk radio he is bombarded by the liberal agenda. This is where the GOP has failed. They don't nominate people who can effectively go over the media's head directly to the people like President Reagan did. I think Sarah Palin would have been that kind of a person but they kept her in a closet because the campaign "gurus" said that her message would be too hard core to get elected. The GOP started believing the liberal packageing of the conservative message. Instead of sticking to their conservative guns, they began this move to moderatism (if that is a word) in an attempt to appear as careing instead of cruel and thereby hoping to get more votes.

    I agree with Bob.
    "As for the Republican party itself, I think it should return to more of a grassroots approach, where individual conservatives act out their beliefs and spread them around."

    Education happens one neighbor at a time.

  11. Mr. Anonymous, I would have to agree with you that "fighting them there... etc." is not a good strategy for such a long lasting conflict. I too think that the Iraq war was poorly planned and timed. I'm just saying that the strategy has accomplished the goal of securing domestic safety for the past 8 years. But it is definitely not a practical long-term strategy.

  12. "how should we start?"

    Personally I think voting out incumbent politicians is a good way to get the ball rolling. Additionally, I believe term limits would be a good step. Many of these people have had decades to step up to the plate for the issues they give lip service to, yet have not once taken the opportunity to do so. The minimum it takes to have the voters back home re-elect them is all the effort we see. The rest goes into cultivating lucrative relationships with lobbyists and corporations.

  13. Bush sent a loud and clear message post-9/11, both with actions and words, that, unlike his predecessor, we will not cower and capitulate in the face of terror.

    Rooting them out, slamming the door on their financial networks, taking them out in covert ops, and drawing a line in the sand regarding nations that harbor them are the Bush methods to which I am referring, not the Iraq War.

  14. "Say There Friend"November 13, 2008 at 4:19 PM

    Ok, Dave. There was a message sent when we overthrew the Taliban, but what about other messages that have been sent?

    The US government has also said that we are willing to expend billions occupying countries that we cannot prove did anything to us. Our government has said that the freedoms of our own citizens should be cut back ( post 9/11 legislation) because of terrorists. Also, we have declared that we have the right to pick some people to be terrorists that deserve obliteration, and at the same time tolerate and even prop up worse examples of the same activity. Look at Saudi Arabia: This place kills Christians! There is no democracy or liberation going on there, but we work with and support this nation. Furthermore, we know that the Saudis harbor terrorists. Bin Laden and many of the men on the planes in the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia,have ties to, and have operated out of the country.
    My point is: What kind of line in the sand is that, and how does this make us safer?